Thursday, 5 July 2018

Summer Exhibitions

I'm running my summer in reverse, doing a few holiday type things now before having some time off for a small operation and then a work project that will take up a lot of spare time, so I managed to book a weekend in London visiting my brother and catching the Royal Academy 250th Summer Exhibition and the Orla Kiely: Life in Pattern Exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum.  It was a hot, heatwave weekend, but I think that made viewing the exhibitions in a cool space all the more pleasurable!  If you're new to the RA summer exhibition, it's an annual event curated by different academy member each year and includes established and new artists through an open submission process.  Grayson Perry was this year's curator and it was a joy...

'Royal Valkyrie', Joana Vasconcelos
'Boom', Katherine Morling

'Prison Culture,' prison issue buttermilk soap, Lee Cutter 

'Red Bear', Debbie Lawson
'Cabinet Members', Sharon Wilson
'Rufus 3rd'', Timothy Blewitt
'Material Tenderness, free machine and handstitched, Michelle Holmes
' Via Con Me (Dreaming of You', hand embroidery on vintage photograph, Francesa Colussi
'Emmeline', hand embroidery on vintage postcard, Francesa Colussi
'Europe Running Through My Veins', Tisna Westerhof
'Head of a Dog', Patricia Beach
'Little House on the Prairie', oil and embroidery thread, Julia Hall
'I Love Alan', name tapes and dressmaker pins on canvas Joy Pitts

Each display space had a different colour background and wall treatment and the content was chosen and hung by Grayson and another Academy member.  I've been to a few RA Summer exhibitions and this was the strongest in terms of curation.  I could feel the difference in mood and aesthetic as I entered each space.  It was a journey, rooms of still and calm, rooms of vibrant, lively, stirring works.  Politics- Brexit and Grenfell featured many times, animals- pets, many dog paintings, 3D animals like the carpet bear and dog.  Lots of textiles too - embroidery, sewing, cross stitch, weaving, knitting, crochet and a strong folk art feel to many works (see Prison Culture example). Fun and silliness, particularly in the free McAulay gallery which is open to all without charge and had lots of Grayson's female persona, Claire, portraits, David Shrigley signs.  It was invigorating to go around.  You can explore all the galleries online here.  #RASummer

After a break for lunch, we walked on to the Fashion and Textile Museum to visit the Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern.  As it was a hot Saturday and many people were in pub gardens watching a World Cup match, we ended up walking around almost alone which was an utter treat.  

Giant Dresses, patterns scaled up accordingly.  On the walls, tiny dolls wearing Orla dresses, patterns scaled down.

It's an exhibition about product and pattern.  It's not a personal exploration so it contrasts with other FTM exhibitions I've visited which show background, sketches, swatches and samples and so this might be a disappointment if you're looking for this sort of storytelling.  Instead, it was the journey or Orla Kiely's trademark motifs and how they are tweaked and reworked whilst still retaining their essential Orla Kiely aesthetic. The wall of bags (tiny part is shown above) was a perfect example of how a motif can be realised in so many different ways.  There were also collection photos, lookbooks and videos showing collections over recent years.  It was thoroughly enjoyable and I although I usually resist museum shops, I couldn't help but buy the exhibition poster and mug. 
I also visited the National Portrait Gallery and the BP Portrait Award exhibition which I try and catch somewhere every year. I didn't take photos inside as I was just off the train but it's always an interesting selection of styles.  My favourite was this  'Mrs Anna Wojcik', by Monika Polak.  The portrait canvas is a piece of vintage fabric bought from a charity shop and cleverly worked into the painting. #BPPortrait
All exhibitions are worth checking out.  An Artfund pass will get you half price entry to the Fashion and Textile Museum and also includes 50% entry to the American Quilt Museum in Bath and many other free and discounted entries elsewhere. 


  1. Awesome! Thank you for sharing! We've been having a heat wave here too, but cooling temps today - so thankful! It sounds like you had a lovely time! Praying all goes well with your operation!


Thank you for taking the time out to leave your thoughts, I do very much appreciate you stopping by! Blogger is not sending comments through by email at the moment so I'll reply in the comments.